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Crop Spot: Radishes

After months of gray skies and storage vegetables, the first spring crops are a welcome relief for the eyes and the palette. An often underappreciated crop is the humble, but delicious, spring radish. An edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family (it’s cousins are broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage), radishes come in a variety of colors (yay for antioxidants!) and shapes.

In the garden:

Radishes are best planted in the early spring or late summer. They are easy to grow and are generally fast maturing (seed to edible radish in less than 30 days!), so they are a perfect crop for new gardeners and kids. Fall planted radish varieties are slower maturing (60 days), have thicker skins, and hold up longer in storage. Radishes are ready for harvest as soon as the roots reach an edible size. Be sure to harvest all spring planted radishes before they become oversized as they will become pithy.

My personal favorite varieties of radishes to grow include: French breakfast (D’avingnon) – spring and summer variety, Cherry Belle – Spring, Easter Egg – spring, and Watermelon – Fall plantings only.

In the kitchen:

When selecting radishes, choose medium to small sized, firm roots. If the greens are still attached, they should be bright green and unwilted. Store radishes bunches in plastic bag in the refrigerator. For longer storage, remove the greens. But don’t throw them away! Wash and add them to a stir fry, saute them with garlic and onions (finish with a splash of lemon), or make them into a fabulous radish leaf pesto. See more uses here.

Most people consume radishes raw in a salad, thinly sliced as a garnish for tacos or bibimbap, or as vehicle for hummus. One of my favorite ways to enjoy radishes, however, is roasted! Simply toss cleaned and trimmed (no peeling necessary!) radishes in olive or avocado oil, add a bit of salt and pepper, and roast at 375 F until soft and golden.

In the Medicine Cabinet:

From a health perspective, radishes are a great addition to your plate. The various colors of their skin reflect a wide range of cell protecting antioxidants and they are a good source of vitamin C (immune boosting, assists in healthy collagen formation) and potassium (cell signaling, muscle contractions, fluid balance).

Further Resources to Explore:

https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/radish.cfm

https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/radishes

Kelly Wilson, RDN, is the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at kelly@localdifference.org

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  in Eat Local, Find Local Food, Kelly Wilson, Learn More, Recipes